Authors long for reviews. We go to great lengths to find folks willing to pen blurbs about our babies. Because, of course, reviews sell books.
So…we contact newspapers and magazines and TV stations, radio outlets, book bloggers, and those with the keys to the podcasts. Then there are the book clubs and bookstores – the few that remain in brick and mortar form. Sometimes, authors beg friends and family members for reviews, but that seems a bit on the suspect side. I mean, generally, don’t loved ones want to say nice things, if only to be polite and avoid familial strife? I have so far refrained from this particular approach, which does not mean I might not give it a try in the future. I just haven’t…yet.
A well-written query letter, to all the proper specifications, might glean a review about two to three percent of the time. Really. I sent out 60 requests one weekend and got two “No thanks” replies for my efforts. The other fifty-eight beautifully composed queries went unanswered.
Still, on that rare occasion when someone agrees to review your book…oh, the joy! And then the wait. Weeks, maybe months, go by before the results come in. And that first 5-Star Review? You read it over and over, lingering over the verbiage like it’s a letter from a lover:
“I say this is a must read! The book is utterly captivating and mature.”
“The story was tightly plotted and suspenseful.”
“Tragic, disturbing, captivating, but utterly fantastic!”
But as with most love affairs, eventually the words become too familiar, stale, and you long for something different. So the quest begins again. You need that high, and the begging – OK, go ahead and call it marketing, if that makes you feel better – begins anew.
Then, of course, authors must also stomach the not-so-charitable comments. There’s the dreaded DNF: Did Not Finish, meaning your book was so bad the reviewer simply couldn’t get to your well-crafted, quite brilliant ending.
“The writing style wasn’t for me. It was too descriptive for my taste.”
“This work aims high but ultimately falls short.”
“The brief, cliff-hanger chapters might appeal to reluctant readers.”
Ouch! And yet, we keep…on…looking. Hoping that someone will read our words and tell us what they think.
Perhaps there is something inherently wrong with authors that we are willing to put ourselves in a position of such utter vulnerability. I’ve heard budding writers say they fear rejection and I want to laugh. Rejection is part of the job description. One must embrace it: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” and all that.
A way to survive the emotional ups and downs of the book review process is to consider the subjectivity of the practice, because these missives are but personal opinions. Don’t believe me? Well, every one of the comments listed above, including the dreaded DNF, came from actual reviews of my most recent novel, The Scent of Rain. Go figure. How can one person adore a book and another find it repugnant? Beats me. But I do know we authors must never refuse to offer our books up on the sacrificial altar of Reviews. Yes, there will be low points, but the highs, I promise you, will blot out those blues.
So stand straight. Be bold. Believe in your prose and send your baby out into the world. Really, there’s no other way.
Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.including.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.